Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Excuses, Excuses

One of the pieces of inspiration that's most stuck with me is something I read in the book The Artist's Way. The author, Julia Cameron, was discussing excuses that we make for ourselves. It went something like this:

Question (Excuse): Do you know how old will I be by the time I learn to play the piano (insert desired skill/task/project here). 

Answer: The same age you will be if you don't. 

The point? It's very easy to make excuses - no funds, no time, no resources, too old, too young, and the list goes on. These excuses, as they pile up, can also make the goals we're attempting to reach overwhelming. Often, we don't intentionally use excuses to stop progress. They are based on legitimate obstacles. How do I fund this new project? Who will help me (since I don't have the funding to pay people)? Where will I find the time? As they build up, they become seemingly insurmountable. After all, it can be rather tough to work on something when you have no time, money, or resources.

In addition, there are what I call the emotional excuses. I'll never be successful. I'm not good at stuff like this. I can't do this on my own. I'm not strong/smart/savvy enough to pull this off. I call these emotional because they play on our confidence and self esteem. They piggy back on our self doubts, or the criticisms of others. And while you certainly do need to think about your strengths, and the fact that you may eventually need to call on others to work with you, this doesn't mean that you'll never succeed, that you can't do it, that you're no good, that you shouldn't start at all. Yet this is often what we tell ourselves. 

I am absolutely guilty of both types of excuses. The trouble is, all too often, I don't recognize them for what they are - things I'm telling myself because I'm afraid to move forward. I'm afraid I'll fail. I'm afraid I'll make a fool of myself. I'm afraid I'll prove the naysayers right. Often, these fears are subconscious. There are perfectly convincing arguments for not starting something until you have the time, money, resources. The problem with this is, you could be waiting forever. It's unlikely that you'll fall into so much money that you can stop whatever you're doing and start your project from scratch without any affects on your finances. It's equally as unlikely that you'll suddenly have more hours in the day, or that all of the right people will stop what they're doing and volunteer to come help with your project, whatever you need. And so, we have to start somewhere. It may be putting out a couple of dollars to get things started. It may be recruiting friends who are willing to help, and while they might not be next in line for CEO of your project, they are willing to offer up their resources, and willing to do it for free (you hope). 

When the lists of tasks, time, and resources required gets overwhelming, break each aspect of the project into tiny, manageable items. Address one of these items daily, or at least weekly, until you have completed the list. As you go along, you might well find that you now have a project you feel comfortable putting some money into to get started.  Or you might find that you already have some traction, and getting the resources you need to go further isn't as difficult as you thought it would be. Or you might simply have more confidence in yourself, which to me is the best outcome of all. It's this confidence that will help you recognize the excuses for what they are, push pass the fear, and get you on your way. 

So my suggestion is this: make a list of all of your obstacles. Look at them, and call yourself out on your excuses. If you find an obstacle to be "legitimate" (ie you truly are physically unable to perform a task, or it requires legal licensing/certification that you do not possess) make a list of ways that you could work around it. I'm willing to bet, though, that the majority of obstacles will really be ways that you've been talking yourself out of moving forward. Once you recognize the excuses for what they are, things seem much more manageable.  And that's a great place to start! 

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